Seems so long ago…

Well, it certainly seemed that way because it really had been so long ago since the last time I set foot in this restaurant…

Hock Chu Leu Restaurant Sibu 1

It must be at least 50-60 years old and was one of the very few and the most famous, most popular restaurants in town back in my growing-up years.

While others have closed down and one that is definitely not as old has moved elsewhere, this one has stayed put at the exact same location right in the centre of town, opposite what used to be the Lido Cinema that had been burnt down and is now an inn…

Lehdo Inn, Sibu

…along the very narrow and congested Blacksmith Road…

Blacksmith Road, Sibu

…where parking can be such a pain and the fact that the pasar malam (night market) has been relocated to the area behind this row of shops sure does not help to make things any better.

A friend posted a comment on Facebook that she was told that the restaurant had changed owner and was not so authentic anymore. I asked and was told that when the old owner had passed away, his son did not have any interest in the business (Word has it that he has migrated and is presently living overseas.) and the old man’s partner, Ah Teck, took over the restaurant. As far as the food goes, it is more or less the same and as nice as before though I do know also that one of the chefs left and opened his own restaurant across river. I hear that he cooks more or less the same stuff as what he used to dish out here but that restaurant is way out of town, so far away…and our roads here, especially those out-of-town ones, are not so vehicle-friendly, not quite the kind of drive for old folks like me…and even more so at night.

Anyway, like before, the restaurant is still on the 1st floor and I was delighted seeing the fact that they have maintained the place really well…

Hock Chu Leu Restaurant, Sibu 2

…with a string of awards…

Hock Chu Leu Restaurant, Sibu 3

…to show…

Hock Chu Leu Restaurant, Sibu 4

 …and an A certificate for cleanliness from our local municipal council.

I was there that night with my friend/ex-classmate, Michael, for dinner before he left town to go back to Australia and we had this sweet and sour fish…

Sweet & sour fish

– I think they called it Fook Kui Yu or something like that…and it was very nicely done indeed.

Correct me if I’m wrong but I think hock chiew means Foochow and lau is short for chiew lau or a venue where they will hold (wedding and other) banquets (ciak chiew) so the name actually means Foochow restaurant and needless to say, this is THE place where one would be able to get old-school authentic Foochow delights such as their celebrated sio bee (meat dumplings)…

[CORRECTION: My sincere apologies to one and all. Based the comments received, in the Chinese name of the restaurant, the first two characters, which taken together sound like the Chinese reference to Foochows, actually do not make a reference to that. “Hock” means luck or good fortune and ‘Chu’ means gather so literally it means “good fortune to all who gather at this place”. Thanks to all concerned for the explanations.]

Hock Chu Leu sio bee

…and their Foochow-style fried noodles…

Hock Chu Leu Foochow fried noodles

When I was small, whenever my mum was busy with something or did not have time to go to the market, my dad would bring the tiffin carrier and buy food home and the thing was that he would buy from this same restaurant and the same few dishes every time so much so that eventually, I got so tired of eating those same things and the mere sight of them would put me off. One of those would be their ang sio pek/pao chai

Hock Chu Leu ang sio pek chai

– stewed/braised Chinese cabbage/wombok. I don’t think it was because I had not eaten it for a long long time but they certainly do it much better now and I really enjoyed it very much. I would surely order it without any second thought should I drop by this restaurant again.

Other than that, we also ordered their fried midin (wild fern)…

Fried midin

…as Michael would not be able to enjoy that once he had gone back…and it is something one would not be able to get outside of the state of Sarawak, not even in the peninsula.

I shared these photos on Facebook and somebody commented that he was not too happy with the people at this restaurant and I quote, “Food may be still good but every time (I mean every time since 4 years ago) we received very rude and sour face treatment even tho we have ordered similar old cuisine…” Unquote. On the contrary, I thought the ladies were very friendly and chatty and the service was excellent! Of course, they were not the sweet and gentle young ladies one might be used to in the new Chinese restaurants elsewhere (especially) as they did come across rather coarse or rough which may be quite typical of small town people and those of our local dialect – it’s just their usual way of talking, that’s all.

If it’s rude as in really rude or ill-mannered, I can pinpoint a few at some places in town but no, I did not think the ones here were thus inclined. I did get a little put off though by how they would scoff on and on about the fried sio bee that I had bought from the pasar malam at the back and brought them along with us – we had gone very early in order that we would be able to find a parking space and in the meantime, we went to browse around the night market but it started pouring heavily so we had to cut short our stroll. They insisted that their fried meatballs…

Fried meat balls

…were way superior and kept putting down the ones I had in my plastic bag. I asked Melissa for her opinion and she said that both were nice. She thought they were two different things that did not taste quite the same and she liked them both.

Well, there was one left and everyone was too full to eat it so I put it in the plastic bag together with the ones deemed inferior and took it home. The next morning, I cut it and stuffed the slices in the croissant that Melissa had bought for me from a bakery near our house, along with some lettuce and mayo to make a croissant sandwich…

Croissant sandwich

…and yes, it was very nice. I must say that I enjoyed it a lot, eaten this way. Hehehehehehe!!!!!

Michael insisted on picking up the tab that night and of course, it would seem so cheap to him, less than AUD$50 for the six of us. I am pretty sure you can’t go out for a dinner for two for that kind of money in Ozzieland. Thank you so much, Michael – I always feel it is so very nice to meet and get together with friends…

Dinner with old friends
*You can tell from the shape & size which the true blue Sibu locals are… LOL!!!*

…and I certainly look forward to more of the same the next time you come home…

Author: suituapui

Ancient relic but very young at heart. Enjoys food and cooking...and travelling and being with friends.

66 thoughts on “Seems so long ago…”

  1. Yeah, I can see the food looks great an the place was very pleasant too. Seems like all is not lost for the next generation. They still run the business well it seems. Nice gathering there!

    Yes, sure was nice to be able to eat there. So nostalgic! Next month, some friends are coming over from Trengganu. Will take them to Kanowit, hope to eat at that old restaurant there where I had my daily meals catered 30-40 years ago. Another walk down memory lane.

  2. First 3 dishes – my favorite! Sweet sour fish (with lots gravy), meat dumplings and noodles (with lots gravy too).. I can finish all those meat dumplings I tell you.. I dont like veggies but I think that ‘wong ah pak’ cabbage in starchy gravy, I’ll like..

    Did I see you cooking something like that before?

    1. Err, I think no. I only fry fish, then drizzle some soy sauce on them.. Meat dumplings? Nah, never done that, but I know Mel did.. Cabbage in starchy gravy? Nope.. I usually stir-fry cabbage with garlic & dried shrimps..

      Yup, I’m talking about the long Chinese white cabbage dish. Actually, just boil/blanch, sprinkle fried garlic with a bit of the oil and pour oyster sauce and serve – nice already.

  3. ooo, A for hygiene … that’s a vote of confidence! 😀

    The municipal council here checks on the eateries in the town regularly, and every year they would award certificates. A = good, keep it up. B = not quite satisfactory, do something about it. C = close temporarily to make the shop nicer and more presentable (eg, have tiled floors, have nice new toilets). I guess D is you’ll have to close down, something along these lines.

  4. Traffic can be such a pain sometimes! I love the red tablecloths and green chairs, so beautiful and colourful, and the food looks very good!

    Yes. I would prefer to go elsewhere, less congested and easy to find a parking space.

  5. Good morning STP,

    I like the first photo – so artistic. Looks like a scene from the old movies.

    You’re very imaginative. Probably a haunted one, I suppose?

      1. I thought after the chinese day of month 7 day 14, the gates to hell are now closed and all the ***** have returned there until next year? And today is after the chinese day of month 7 day 14, right?

        15th was Sunday past and I had to send my girl back to her jungle school – not that it made any difference to those hell raisers though – still the same reckless driving. Tsk! Tsk!

  6. Of all the dishes here, I like the braised chinese cabbage best, next is midin, then is the fried fish. Is this midin cooked in Chinese style because usually I see there is a little red chili pieces in the dish but not this one. Was this midin cooked with superior soup (siong tong) as I think I see a piece of anchovy and some garlic pieces in the liquid (sauce?) underneath the midin.

    I haven’t the slightest idea – they just said ching chao (clear cooked) or something like that. They do that with ALL vegetables here if you choose to have it done that way especially those not into spicy stuff, NO chili and no belacan.

    Nope, NO chilli – those would be the leaves of the midin, some are red/maroon in colour and no, there was no ikan bilis either – that probably was a strip of ginger. Some people feel midin is cold (like kangkong) so ginger is used to balance that. Old people would know this yin and yang in Chinese cooking.

  7. What other dishes did your father use to takeaway from this restaurant other than the braised chinese cabbage?

    I remember the very nice sweet and sour pork meatballs but no, I did ask – they do not cook those anymore. 😦 I enjoyed them a lot. Then there was the fish, fish fillet – sweet and sour too but no tomato sauce used, so not red in colour. I think they used vinegar. Yum! Yum! But we already had fish, sweet and sour so I did not ask about this one.

    1. Ah, so they did away with the sweet and sour pork meatballs. I wonder why. They could just have pour the sweet and sour sauce used for the fish onto the fried meatballs and voila – you get your sweet and sour pork meatballs! 😀

      No, the meatballs were not done the same way, not the same.

  8. Very ingenious way of eating the fried meatball with croissant. Yum yum yummy!

    Cannot just follow recipes and standard practices. Wouldn’t that be so so boring? Create your own! Variety is the spice of life!

    1. Agreed! I hope you don’t mind me leaving so many comments here like the comments in SK blog.

      As long as they’re all relevant, not off tangent…and addressed to me directly. Wouldn’t want to be left out of any discussion.

      1. *wipe sweat off forehead* lucky that I am talking to you and not talking to someone else here. Pheeewww! Saw your hint hint at another reply. ;p

        Ok…

  9. You mean the lady waitresses saw your fried sio bee in your plastic bags without you mentioning them and started to criticize them? Their eyes must be really sharp or did they ask you what is in the plastic bag before they started to upsell their fried meatballs?

    Can see through what, not black plastic bags.

    1. Wah, so they saw on their own and started to criticize the fried sio bee? Tsk tsk tsk bad manners but then maybe it is their tactic to upsell their fried meatballs.

      I thought they were just being chatty and trying to promote their own – what put me off was they kept going on and on about it. I guess some people are like that – very repetitive, old people especially…saying the same things again and again. Lesson learnt – never ever buy anything elsewhere and bring to this place when having dinner here.

  10. This restaurant reminds me of Sek Yuen restaurant in Pudu. Though not a Foochow restaurant, it is as old as this and gives out this nostalgic aura.

    Never heard, never been. Maybe you can go and blog about it and I can get to see how similar they are?

    1. I don’t think I will eat in Sek Yuen for a very, very long time so here is a link to a very good post about Sek Yuen. Guarantee you look at the food, you will like it so if you ever come to KL, I will treat you to food in Sek Yuen, deal? You get to choose to sit in the air-cond or non-air-cond part, hehehe.

      http://gila-makan.blogspot.com/2014/01/sek-yuen.html

      Ooooo…I’m sure I would love the place and the food though it would not be a walk down memory lane for me – old school but not quite like when we had here in our growing up years. We aure are different in more ways than one, those who have been here will attest to the fact.

      1. Here’s another link:

        http://preciouspea.blogspot.com/2007/04/sek-yuen-restaurant.html

        with a sinful dish that even I have not eaten before and will not be eating it because of my stand of saying no to shark fin but I guess not many restaurants make this kind of dish anymore. The dish is “Ngap Thun Chi” (Duck Swallow Fins).- Duck stuffed with Shark Fins – ooooo so sinful.

        That sounds interesting. Never heard of duck with sharks fins before. Anyway, me too – would not order any sharks fins (which, for one thing, is rather silly, I think, as they’re tasteless and so so so expensive) plus my missus does not eat duck so that dish is totally out.

  11. Ah, I wanted to ask this question. Nearly forgot. Back in the old days, did this restaurant use these kind of green plastic chairs? I don’t think this style of green plastic chairs existed then.

    Ahhhh!!! Good question! Nope, plastic is a relatively new thing…even though thing sin the old days were made to last, they certainly did not last forever.

  12. You mean the true blue locals are the gentlemen wearing red and orange? Michael must love visiting Sibu to meet up with his good friends and have a fun time eating and catching up. Eating alone is meaningless. He “sik do” so this meal is on him.

    Wrong guess. Try again.

    1. If just by shape and size, there are only 2 groups:

      Group 1: Red and orange
      Group 2: Pink and purple

      So if it is not group 1, then I have no choice but to choose group 2 now.

      Red and orange gentlemen do not match pink and purple gentlemen in shape and size, hehehe.

      Group 1 lah….Sibu size. Group 2, one has been living Down Under most of his life since he left high school…and the other one, if I’m not mistaken, is originally from Kuching.

      1. But my first reply is Group 1 – red and orange and you said wrong?!! \\(OvO)//

        Ooooooppppsssss!!! Sorry! Must have been too early in the morning, just woke up…and bombarded by so many comments at one go. Wink! Wink! Hehehehehehehe!!!!

  13. Always thought ‘Hock’ stands for good fortune. So many shops in Sibu starts with ‘Hock.’

    Ahhhhhh yess!!! If it is Hock (good fortune) and Chiew Lau (restaurant), then the name will take on a whole new meaning. 😛

    1. By the Chinese name, the ‘Chiu’ mean gather. Literally it means all the good fortune gathered ath this place.

      Ahhhhh!!!! Thank you. Now I have the complete translation…I think. Will add a footnote on it on the post then. Thanks again.

  14. It was that old and yet it looks new. Really well maintained!

    That croissant is delicious!

    So was the food at this restaurant. Been there before? Go, give it a try – authentic Foochow delights! Make sure you go before you move back to Kuching.

    The croissant’s from Bread Sense. Not bad, better than many but I still prefer Giant’s.

    1. Heard the croissant from Bread Sense but bern there few times, they dont bake croissant every day. So havent try it out.

      Alright. I will tell my hubby about this restaurant, but hard to find parking there. That why we seldom go to town area for food.

      I was lucky. Managed to find one. Was thinking of parking at the exhibition centre, the 1Malaysia shop and walking all the way. Not very far, Sibu so small.

      1. We don’t mind a short walk. Kids enjoy it. I also bored of going to the same restaurant. Haha. Wanna try something different.

        I would say it is nicer than the one we went to with the group from Kuching in the Dewan Suarah area but that one’s cheaper, I guess and parking is easy.

  15. All the dishes looks so so awesome. In love with the fish & midin. Been in existence for 50-60 years yet cleanliness still maintained, plus point for them. From the picture, it doesn’t look so spacious.

    It’s just the top floor of one of the old shophouses. Long ago, for big banquets – they would use the Foochow Association some 100-200 metres away…and they would put the dishes on a big wooden tray and carry them over.

  16. I like the last dish, not just the inside ingredients, but the outside bread, hehe!!

    My masterpiece – got money, cannot buy. Hehehehehehe!!!!!

  17. The place looks authentic..and the food looks great too!! Yes, don’t waste good food.. anything not finished, can tar pau back and make a good meal the next day!

    Yes, indeed. We do that all the time…whoever is keen on tapao-ing back. As the say, it’s a sin to waste.

  18. oh, I love the fish, it looks so delicious in the photo.. probably can wallop two bowls of rice just with that, of course that gravy that seems to be so appetizing.. 🙂

    All was nice…and very authentic too, real old school. Sure enjoyed everything and wouldn’t mind going again.

  19. The place has that very typical old school Chinese restaurant look that may come across as gaudy for today’s taste. But I don’t mind as it is the food that matters. All the dishes look really good especially the sweet and sour fish. I note that some ethnic groups speak loudly and in a gruff way which may come across as rude to those who are not used to it. I used to think that they were fighting or quarrelling but in actual fact they were just having a normal conversation.

    Yes, exactly what my coursemates told me when I went for in-service training in the 80’s. They said they knew some people from Sibu when in uni but they would stick together most if not all of the time. I asked if they seemed like they were quarrelling among themselves and they said yes. 😀

    I think if they were to renovate the place, make it look real modern – the soul would be gone. I am very glad they have maintained it the way it was…except for the green plastic chairs. Just like how they restored some of those old colonial buildings – instead of maintaining the old look, they did this and that to them and spoiled everything – not original, not authentic…not the same. Might as well pull it down and build one of those cold soul-less modern structures.

  20. sweet fish, wouldn’t mind some myself. Janice loves to order fish dishes at every chinese restaurant we go to, but she prefers the steamed ones, as they’re supposedly ‘more fresh’.. lol

    That is very true…but of course, it is up to one’s preference. I know in those set 8-course dinners, without anyone requesting, if the fish is served fried with sweet and sour sauce, that means the fish is not all that fresh, not so nice for steaming.

  21. LOL I am more interested with the enhanced croissant that you made 😀 ! Haih again the same problem, running an old school restaurant is too difficult for the newer generation, most will just convert the business to a franchise if the business is successful enough, or give it all up if the business is small. Better to sit in the office with a tie than toiling in the kitchen and mingling with vulgar mouthed uncles and aunties…

    I suppose so but I do know of a few here who are putting aside their university degrees to go into the food business like the ones here and here, for instance…and the guy behind the first ever instant kampua enterprise is an overseas graduate actually.

  22. It seems like Chinese restaurants have similar set-up. The signage outside of the shop is almost similar with the ones here in Manila.

    All from the same roots…with some variations and differences perhaps, depending on dialect and locality.

  23. For me, the sweet and sour fish is the best! And quite a huge fish, too.
    You’re so resourceful to use the meatball in the croissant 🙂

    Nice change and sure beats eating it as it was…just like that without anything else.

  24. The fried noodle definitely tastes amazing just by the mere sight of it…

    Yes. Many all over the town but somehow, many just cannot get it or do not have it. This is the real thing!

  25. Not often do I see anyone writing about food better done now than before, testament of you being truly fair and not looking via the nostalgic lens 😀

    Have to tell the truth but of course, all opinions are my own – I may say it is not nice but others may think otherwise. Like I see many eating at places that I do not think are all that great. However, I think my taste in food is pretty reliable just that different people may have different taste or some people are probably just not bothered as long as they have something to eat…as usually they are edible, can’t say they are so nice that I would be rushing back for more.

  26. I want to say again, love the 1st picture, very nice.

    I cannot remember when was my last step foot in this restaurant, maybe when i am still very young! I cannot remember the food, but i remember they serve very good “or nee” – Yam cake? I really love that a lot.

    To my understanding, Hock is what Philip said , fortune, Chu is gather in mandarin. It is not hock chew – foochow. hahhaha :P:P

    Ok. So many Chinese characters in the sign – I wonder what the complete meaning is. If it is Hock (luck) + chiew lau (venue for banquets) + restaurant – the last two would mean the same, no?

    Ok, will ask if they have or nee the next time I drop by there. I love that very much. You can give it a try the next time you come back – nicer than Siong Loke Yong, your favourite in the Dewan Suarah area, and different from New Capital – New Capital not really old school anymore, many new dishes.

  27. i like the food… i dun like the chair… next time bring me good chair when we go there ok…

    Haiyar!!!! Didn’t think of it at the time. Actually, when we went to Kanowit that day, Philip wanted to collect his custom-made made-to-order wooden stools made of BELIAN. I should have tumpang-ed, placed an order for one just for you and you can take it wherever you go to sit on it instead of all those plastic chairs. The ones here aren’t very new though…so I could sit on them, not like the current ones in the coffee shops.

  28. I hate going to areas where parking is a pain! I rather give up and go somewhere else, no matter how good the food is (Unless someone is willing to drive me la xD)

    You’re like me.

  29. Hmm…the meaning is incorrect?

    I always thought the same as you too – the literal translation, “hock chiew lau” = Old Favorite Place (for Foochows). I think on some level a lot of people take it to mean that way coz we’re not the only ones, I’ve heard friends and cousins describe it to me that way.

    No, it seems but never mind, as long as the food is as good as before. That’s what matters most.

All opinions expressed in my blog are solely my own, that is my prerogative - you may or may not agree, that is yours. To each his/her own.

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